Ruben Tejada has a short memory when it comes to errors

Ruben Tejada forces out the Miami Marlins' Adeiny Ruben Tejada forces out the Miami Marlins' Adeiny Hechavarria at second base and throws to first to complete a double play in the sixth inning of a game at Citi Field. (April 6, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The ball appeared to be headed into center for a single when the Mets' leader in errors made a perfectly timed slide and extended his left arm, hoping it might find his glove. When it did, the shortstop reset his feet, then unleashed a powerful throw that easily beat the Nationals' Kurt Suzuki to first base.

Ruben Tejada jogged off the field, but not before reliever Brandon Lyon greeted him with a high-five Sunday afternoon, a reward for a job well done.

These are the glimmers of brilliance that keep the 23-year-old Tejada pressing on, the moments to which his supporters can point whenever the next error comes.

At this pace, there might be plenty of those, too. Tejada has been charged with six errors this season. Entering Monday's games, only the Nationals' Ian Desmond had committed more, with seven.

"I have to keep working, and I've stayed working hard to try to make the routine plays," Tejada said. "I'm here, working hard, and the first thing I want to show is that I'm the same Ruben Tejada -- right now with a couple of errors early in the season -- but I don't feel bad about that. It happens."

The Mets have few alternatives but to stand with their shortstop.

Though Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin are on the roster, neither utilityman has proven he can play shortstop at a major-league level. Veteran Omar Quintanilla lingers at Triple-A Las Vegas, and though he has experience, he also brings doubts about whether he can handle the position every day.

So despite Tejada's early-season lapses, manager Terry Collins has remained a steadfast supporter.

"Once in a while, you've got to be patient, you've got to shake your head and say look, we know he's going to get better," said Collins, who interprets Tejada's aggressive play as a sign that he hasn't let the errors get into his head.

Indeed, for all of Tejada's faults with routine plays, he hasn't looked tentative while attempting difficult throws.

Mets captain David Wright took things a step further, dismissing Tejada's struggles as nothing more than an early-season defensive slump.

Said Wright: "We know what kind of defense he can play."

Notes & quotes: Righthander Shaun Marcum remains on track to make his season debut Saturday against the Phillies. Marcum, who has been sidelined since mid-March with shoulder and neck issues, threw 52 pitches in five scoreless innings during an extended spring training game Monday. He allowed three hits, struck out four and walked none before throwing additional pitches in the bullpen. The Mets expect he will top out at 90 pitches Saturday . . . The Mets signed former Yankees righthander D.J. Mitchell to a minor-league deal. Mitchell, 25, a sinkerballer, was a throw-in piece in the Yankees' trade for Ichiro Suzuki last year. Mitchell likely will begin the season in the Triple-A Las Vegas rotation, where he will serve as organizational depth.

You also may be interested in: